31 December 2013 |

India: Internal displacement in brief

As of December 2013


India continued to experience new and protracted displacement during 2013 as a result of communal violence and armed conflict with a total of at least 526,000 people displaced at the end of the year. This figure likely under-represents the real number of IDPs since in India IDPs tend to no longer be counted once official camps are closed, even if they remain in displacement. In addition, many of the country’s IDPs are assumed to be dispersed in urban areas, and there is little or no information about their numbers or protection and assistance needs.

An estimated 64,000 people were newly displaced in 2013, more than half of whom were still living in displacement at the end of the year. More than 488,000 IDPs continued to live in protracted displacement, which lasts on average for five to ten years. A survey of IDPs conducted during the year by the NGO Centre for Social Justice identified ethnic identity and land disputes as the main causes of communal tensions.

Outbreaks of communal violence led to displacement during the year, in the north-eastern state of Assam and in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Riots displaced around 51,000 people from more than 150 villages in Uttar Pradesh in September. State authorities said that more than 90 per cent of those who fled had returned by the end of the year, but local organisations assisting IDPs said that more than 27,000 people were still living in unofficial camps after the authorities forcibly evicted them from official ones.

In December, more than 3,000 people from the Karbi and Rengma Naga tribes sought shelter in displacement camps in the Bokajan area of the Karbi Anglong Hills district of central Assam, following ethnic violence between the Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT) and the Rengma Naga Hills Protection Force (RNHPF).

In Assam, authorities closed the remaining camps where 12,000 Bengali-speaking Muslims and members of the Bodo tribe who fled inter-communal violence in 2012 were staying. The situation of IDPs outside of the camps is unknown. At the end of the year the security situation in the area remained tense and it is likely many remain unable to return.

Around 30,000 Bru people who fled their homes in Mizoram state in 1997 and 2009 also remain displaced in Tripura state. Hundreds more fled in fear in December amid tensions sparked by kidnappings the previous month.  

In central India, more than 148,000 Adivasi people remained displaced as a result of recurring conflict over land and mineral resources. The fighting pitted government forces and allied militias against Maoist insurgents claiming to fight on behalf of the Adivasis. Clashes in May displaced another 10,000 people.

Conditions in displacement camps remain dire across the country. IDPs lack access to clean water, adequate shelter, food, security, clothing and health care. In Uttar Pradesh, camp conditions contributed to the deaths of more than 50 IDPs, most of whom were children under the age of 15. Harassment and threats from villagers in IDPs’ home areas often hinder their efforts to return, and the police tend to be unwilling to protect returnees.

Support for long-term solutions varied significantly between states in 2013. Some opted to compensate IDPs for their displacement, while others tried to encourage return by offering grants and housing. The state government in Jammu and Kashmir provided 350 temporary accommodation units, employment opportunities, utilities and livestock and farming grants in an effort to facilitate the return of Kashmiri Pandits displaced since 1990.

The governments of Gujarat, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, however, made no such efforts to assist the hundreds of thousands of people who remain displaced there. India’s central government does not consider IDPs’ recovery and rehabilitation as part of its mandate.

In Uttar Pradesh, the state government’s measures to promote IDPs’ sustainable return of IDPs displaced centred on compensation. It distributed 500,000 rupees ($8,190) to 1,800 families from nine villages recognised as having been affected by rioting. It did not, however, consider IDPs from other areas as eligible.

Religious charities, madrassas, civil society groups and local communities took the lead in assisting IDPs during 2013. The National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights advocated on behalf of IDPs, but the fact that the country has no formal legislation on displacement in place hampered their efforts.

A national policy or law on IDPs is much needed to address their protection and assistance consistently and effectively, and to provide a framework for steps to facilitate durable solutions.